Shopping desert at San Francisco International

San Francisco is a destination I frequently fly to for my job. When I took off there last time, there was no delay and in fact, when you take off from San Francisco International (IATA: SFO) in 98% of the times your flight is on time according to The Northern Californian airport was also recently rated best US airport. Despite all that, there will still be the odd occasion when your flight actually is delayed (my colleagues who flew back with BA the next day were in fact delayed for about 2 hours), plus, with international flights it is recommended to get to the airport 2 hours prior to departure which often means you have plenty of time to kill before the boarding announcement.

So, what’s there to do at San Francisco International? Well, according to the airports own statistics, the terminal is the largest international terminal by square footage in North America. There are two different boarding areas, A and G with most non-US carrier flights departing from area A. Whilst the size of the terminal is definitely adding to your relaxation, you would also expect plenty of shopping opportunities (even more so with the current weak dollar). No such luck – there are hardly any! For example, if you hoped to buy that last minute Apple iPod for your friend at home, you will be disappointed as none can be found at SFO. So, better get your shopping done before you get to the airport. But what can you then do at the airport? Here are my top 5:

  1. Sit at the North side of the terminal and watch the air traffic
  2. Search the few stores for that one Vitamin Water flavour you haven’t tasted yet
  3. Count the number of public announcements that were generated with a computer voice
  4. Connect online and download your latest emails (connect through T-Online for US$6/hour or use your companies connection software)
  5. DeleteUpload those crazy photos you took last Saturday night at that party in the Castro

Happy travelling!


Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name San Francisco International (International Terminal, A Gates)
Design Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Shopping Plane Award Point
Toilets Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Overall Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop
$66.00 (£33.20)
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop $99.00 (£49.80 – or click to see other currencies)